Not surprisingly, Athens is sizzling hot in the summer! Relief from the heat isn’t in sight, so mornings and evenings are the best time for physical activity, unless you’re comfortable baking in the sun at crowded beaches. My skin says no, but a refreshing swim sounds good!
I usually travel off season, avoiding crowds, overpriced accommodation, and the dizzy summertime vacation scene. Tourist-frenzied streets aren’t appealing, but I enjoy talking with happy holidaymakers at neighborhood tavernas.
Long walks are challenging in the heat, so I’m frequenting leafy, shaded areas. Fortunately, Athens has almost as many parks as historical artifacts, and in addition to their lush flora, some display impressive sculptings and monuments.
Architecture, Theatre, Dance
After scaling a barrage of stone steps, Philopappos and Pnyx are waiting on the other side of Koukaki. There are several entrances, some pass ancient architecture, like the 16th Century AD Chapel of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris and the Wall of Themistocles, built in 460 BC.
Filopappou Theatre (Dora Stratou Theatre) is on the western slope of Philopappos Hill. Dora Stratou, a famous Greek dancer, founded the Greek Dances-Dora Stratou Society to preserve traditional music, costumes, and dance.
Philopappos Hill is the highest of the three hills of the Acropolis. The other two are Areopagus (Mars) Hill and Pnyka (Pnyx) Hill with its extension, Hill of the Nymphs. Each has its own unique significance, history, and myths.
This morning, I hiked up Pynx Hill first and found it magical! The Mediterranean pine forest is dense and there’s less foot traffic. It leads to a National Observatory at the summit and the small Chapel of Saint George Alexandrinos.
I hiked Philopappos Hill afterwards. Although there were more tourists, the area exudes peaceful vibes. From the top, glorious views of the Acropolis are almost surreal, and the Monument to Philopappos is spectacular!
Philopappos Hill is also known as the Hill of the Muses. It’s a popular viewing platform with indescribable and unforgettable panoramic views of Athens, the Acropolis, and the Aegean Sea! It’s embellished with unique stone pathways and Mediterranean pine forests.
The creative stone steps and walking trails were designed by Greek architect, artist, and city planner Dimitris Pikionis. His designs combine “natural motifs with classical and intricate Byzantine patterns”. I took photos of some of the images etched in the pathways. They must have a special meaning.
“The summit of Filopappou Hill is adorned with a funerary monument designed in honor of Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, the last prince of the Kingdom of Commagene, who died in 116 AD.”
“After being exiled, Philopappos returned to Athens, became an Athenian citizen, and held religious and civil offices. Highly esteemed by Athens residents, he’s considered one of the city’s great benefactors.”
Philopappos Tomb and Socrates Prison
The monument is a “two-story structure. The lower level is a frieze representing Philopappos as a consul riding on a chariot led by lictors. The upper-level shows statues of three men – Prince Antiochus IV on the left, Philopappos in the centre, and Seleucus I Nicator, a general of Alexander the Great, on the right”.
Concerts and Next Stop
I’ve booked several outside concerts – opera, jazz, ballet – and an island-hopping sailing / snorkeling day trip. The traditional sailboat looks gorgeous! Hopefully, the outing will help me determine interest in spending time on the islands. I packed a special top to keep my backside from getting fried while snorkeling. Despite exorbitant summer prices, most of the islands are fully booked through summer, so that might foil plans to spend time there in August.
Some of the Cyclades I’m considering are Milos, Kimolos, Paros, Naxos, Serifos, and Sifnos. Locals say these small islands are less-touristed and provide a more “complete” Greek experience with an interesting mix of culture, watersports, and food. I’m also considering Crete, the largest Greek island. At this point, no idea where I’ll end up?
One thing all cities visited so far – Belgrade, Istanbul, and now Athens – have in common is horrific traffic. The nightmare gridlock hasn’t affected me much, because when not on foot, I’ve been using the Metro and Trams. Sadly, I’ve learned to fear Athens motorcycles. They rarely give pedestrians the right of way, and can terrorize you by appearing unexpectedly any time from all directions. On narrow cobblestone streets, I’ve almost been hit several times, while minding my own business well within pedestrian zones. When high density gets to you, spending a few days on an isolated beach sounds good.